Jim Collins’ Top 10 To-Do’s for Leaders

Posted 09.30.2009

This is the last of three posts that I’m writing based on some great presentations I heard at the Inc. 500 conference in Washington, DC last week. The primary keynoter for the conference was leadership guru Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great and the new book, How The Mighty Fall. I had never heard Collins speak before and when I found out he was going to be speaking in my hometown zone, I signed up for the conference.  It was the right decision. Jim Collins is a fantastic speaker. He offers incredibly rich and though provoking content delivered with the passion and energy of a world class evangelist.  If you get a chance to hear him speak, take it. You won’t be sorry.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share with you the top 10 to-do’s for leaders that he offered at the end of his two hour segment.  (These are paraphrased based on my notes.) It’s unlikely that all ten will resonate with you, but my guess is that you (like me) will find at least two or three that hit home.  Here they are:

  1. Download the free Good to Great diagnostic tool from JimCollins.com and use it as the basis for assessment, conversation and planning with your team.
  2. Answer these questions for your organization:  What are the key seats on our bus and are those seats filled with the right people?
  3. Establish a personal board of directors for yourself.  When you create your board, choose the members based on their characters, not their accomplishments.
  4. Get young people (i.e. Gen Y’s) – the right ones – in your face.
  5. Turn off your gadgets and create some regular white space for thinking.
  6. Build a leadership council for your organization to engage in dialogue, debate and disagreement.
  7. Check in on your questions to statements ratio and set a goal of doubling it in the next year.  An early mentor to Collins observed that he seemed to be more interested in being interesting than being interested.  That’s what caused Collins to focus on his own questions to statements ratio.
  8. Start working on your stop doing list.  (A good reason not to start trying to do all ten of these tips at once.)
  9. Make sure that the core values and purpose of your organization are established early.  It will be too late to do so when the tough times inevitably come.
  10. Set your BHAG’s (Collins’ acronym for Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals) 10 to 15 years out based on your experience to date.

Some pretty compelling ideas here aren’t there? Which ones hit home with you?  What idea could you follow through on in the next week and what difference do you think it would make?